UPC, Esade and IED students join forces with CERN to create innovative solutions to the challenges of the pandemic

Eight university teams consisting of 42 students from the UPC, Esade and the IED Barcelona present their prototypes after months of work with CERN scientists researching new solutions for the future of humanity.

Jan 15, 2021

Urban mobility and how to reassure users after COVID-19; future jobs and forms of employment, particularly working from home and work-life balance; the transformation of education and learning; and the importance of verifying information to combat fake news—these are the four challenges set this year in the seventh edition of Challenge-Based Innovation (CBI), a programme organised by @IdeaSquare and the innovation department at CERN to encourage multidisciplinary teams of students to work together with researchers and teachers from different entities on new solutions for the future of humanity.

Eight university teams consisting of 42 students from the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), Esade  and the IED Barcelona of 19 nationalities, presented their prototypes online after months of work sharing knowledge with CERN scientists. The projects have been in development since September in partnership with Fusion Point, the co-working area shared by the three institutions on the Rambla de la Innovació, on Esade’s Sant Cugat del Vallès campus.

This year’s participants worked online with CERN teams to address some of today’s social issues using cutting-edge technologies developed by the scientific institution. The projects include proposals to reassure users of public transport following COVID-19, systems to increase the motivation of people working from home, technology to facilitate distance learning by people with autism and apps to verify posts on social media. Each challenge was developed by two teams of students from different universities who defined them according to sustainable development goals.

Urban mobility
In the area of urban mobility, teams focused on alternatives designed to reassure users by increasing the safety distance between users inside vehicles. To do so, they worked with Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona (TMB). Team Myrmex developed FUTO° - Modular Public Transport, which aims to replace large metro or tram carriages with self-driving pods. This project responds to the need to create smaller, safer mobility systems that carry fewer people per square metre. This solution also makes it possible to increase the frequency of the service and improve its management.

Team Nicola put forward MobiNou, a semi-autonomous, micro-mobility solution for people over the age of 65. This vehicle can transport them along a set route using a guideline with a magnetic detector. It also features a passive obstacle detector with a simple UX/UI design and a 5G geolocation and monitoring system.

Jobs of the future
The challenge of future employment focused on WFH and work-life balance. Team Feynman developed Preelio, a system for assessing motivation during company presentations, classes and video conferences. It consists of a virtual assistant that compiles data obtained from cameras, assesses the degree of satisfaction and gives the speaker real-time feedback. The system analyses viewers’ attention and makes recommendations about how to improve the event.

Team Lamarr proposed TeamBox, an app designed to help employees bond with their company and help hybrid teams working from home remain motivated. It uses a point scoring system and suggests activities that employees can do as rewards for their work, whilst acting as the company’s in-house social network.

Education and learning
In response to the future challenges faced by education and learning due to COVID-19, team Dirac proposed Savant, a programme that adds video to calls to facilitate communication with autistic persons. The system recognises emotions and speech and enables them to ask for help when necessary.

The Piaget presented Coco, an intelligent classroom assistant created in response to the need for a new and effective system to encourage project-based self-learning. It involves an AI system that compiles queries arising from team meetings and conveys them to expert teachers in those fields so they can monitor project development from a distance and provide the support necessary for their educational development.

Fake news and confirmation of information
Finally, in relation to the challenge of fake news and the importance of confirming information, team Lovelace designed WikiFacts, a plug-in to confirm the content of social media posts on the basis of user interaction. This tool makes it possible to rank the quality of the information posted and, depending on users’ activity and their ratings, their credibility will increase and score higher in the system, positioning them as sources of reliable, confirmed information.

Team Shannon proposed Infodemics, a videogame for children aged 8 to 12 that aims to underline the importance of confirming information to avoid fake news. This interactive proposal consists of a spy game with questions that help players develop their critical thinking, understand the responsibility involved in creating content, pinpoint the aims and viewpoints of each news item and equip themselves to consume information responsibly.

Participants included 16 full-time MBA students from Esade, 10 students of bachelor’s degrees in Product Design, Interior Design, Transport Design, Graphic Design and Motion Graphics from the IED and 16 students from the Barcelona School of Telecommunications Engineering (ETSETB) at the UPC, specifically students on the bachelor’s degree in Telecommunications Technologies and Services Engineering and the master’s degrees in Telecommunications Engineering and Electronic Engineering.